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Florida University Deploys Open Source LMS

In a move to cut costs and add features, a Florida university has deployed a new open-source learning management system. The university previously used Blackboard, but upgrading to version 9.1 would have forced faculty layoffs, according to the school.

After comparing several options and running pilot programs, The University of South Florida has selected Canvas by Instructure for its LMS.

Features of Canvas include:

  • A rich content editor, which allows professors to embed photos, audio, and video from across the Web;
  • Rubrics, and SpeedGrader, for assignment grading;
  • Choice of delivering notifications via SMS message, email, or Facebook;
  • Exam creation choices, including development from scratch, or using a question bank;
  • Video and live chat, built into the LMS;
  • Online groups for extracurricular groups such as teams and clubs; and
  • Reporting and analytics of student progress in real time.

"Canvas meets the demand from our students and faculty for a 21st century platform," said Michael Pearce, system vice president of information technology and chief information officer at the university. "We chose Canvas because it is flexible, cloud-based, and easy to use."

University representatives said they particularly liked Instructure's video features, performance evaluations, SpeedGrader and ePortfolio apps, activity reports, and plagiarism detection integration.

"Canvas is a lot like using the Web. Students love it. It's fast, flexible and intuitive," said Mark Walters, associate professor in journalism and media studies. "I can now concentrate on getting students the material they need, seamlessly and in virtually any format. Canvas' reliability and ease of use actually make online teaching fun and exciting."

The University of South Florida has approximately 47,000 students in 232 degree programs at its Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee, and Lakeland campuses.

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About the Author

Tim Sohn is a 10-year veteran of the news business, having served in capacities from reporter to editor-in-chief of a variety of publications including Web sites, daily and weekly newspapers, consumer and trade magazines, and wire services. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @editortim.

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